In a note sent to customers and posted on FB, Last Gasp publisher Ron Turner revealed the 47 year old company is shutting down its distribution arm.
Dear Customer, Vendors, and Friends,
We are writing to announce that Last Gasp is closing the distribution portion of our business.
However, we are not closing our publishing program, and we have many new books planned for 2017 and beyond. We will also continue operating our website, www.lastgasp.com
The success of Last Gasp Distribution over the previous 47 years has been largely due to its amazing customers, our talented and hard-working staff, as well as the authors, artists and publishers whose books we have been honored to distribute. We are very grateful to you for your years of support and collaboration.
We hope to have your support as we focus on our publishing endeavors.
Ronald E. Turner
Founder and Owner, Last Gasp of San Francisco
Last Gasp was truly the last alternative to Diamond, with roots in its origin as a publisher in the underground scene in San Francisco in the 70s. Rising to distribute books to the early underground network of headshops and bookstores, they continued on and distributed art books and comics with a distinctly alternative and hugely influential sensibility.
As a result of this change, “much of the (Last Gasp) staff will be laid off,” according to Last Gasp associate publisher Colin Turner, who responded to questions from PW via email. Although he declined to give the precise number of employees affected, Last Gasp has employed about a dozen people. Most of the Last Gasp employees will remain at the firm until the end of February, thereafter, Colin said the company will “continue with a very small staff,” to support its publishing operation.
The closure of the distribution business will impact “quite a large number of smaller publishers. More than 100 at least – some are single-title publishers,” explained Colin. “Though it probably won’t impact their bottom line in a major way, it will also have an effect on larger publishers and distributors whose books we buy and wholesale to stores. It will affect a number of bookstores, comic shops, and other retailers who rely on Last Gasp’s wholesale distribution for a mix of titles,” he explained to PW.
Colin said the move to close the distribution business was “a straightforward financial decision: the cost of doing business is high, margins are slim, and there is not enough volume.” He added “the distribution business is extremely difficult, as you can tell from other distributors’ closures and mergers. We tried to hang on but it was just not possible.”
So there you have it — distribution is way too marginal a business whereas publishing still has some life left in it. While the move will impact many people, it will probably be only a blip on their bottom lines.
Ron Turner, a Santa Claus-like figure to the underground scene, has been a pioneer and hugely important figure in the history of comics, publishing such titles as Weirdo, Wimmen’s Comix, and later ZAP. His office will stay open in the Last Gasp warehouse, although the warehouse part will close down. A lt of times you call some thing the end of an era, but this really is the end of an era.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.